AlphaFlight.net - I'd like to welcome Mark Paniccia, Alpha Flight Volume 4 editor. Thanks for joining me Mark!
Mark Paniccia: My pleasure!
AF.net - What is your personal history with Alpha Flight? Were you a long time fan, or late in coming into the "fold"?
MP: I fell in love with the Department H gang way back in X-MEN #120. I was a huge X-Men fan at the time and was totally shocked when Hudson’s team showed up and had the audacity to pick a fight with my favorite mutants.
But I was totally wowed, too! I thought they were really cool and Canada seemed…so “exotic” to me at the time. Everything about Alpha Flight was intriguing. I wanted more and was one of the happiest fans on the planet when Marvel finally announced a regular series years later.
AF.net - Tell me how you became involved in the creation of this latest release of Alpha Flight.
MP: This is one of those books I always wanted to work on. On my flight to New York after I took the editorial job way back in 2004, I made a list of dream projects and ALPHA FLIGHT was on it. I hadn’t kept up with everything that had happened to them over the past few years but always thought there was a way to revisit the magic of the original series. Of course, when I sat down at my desk that first day, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one with big ideas. First there was the fact that Marvel had just done a mini-series and then there were all these other AF pitches flying around. I was the most junior Sr. Editor at the time so I had to deal with the reality that it may never happen or take some time.
And as they say, good things come to those who wait. The stars lined up just right and there was finally an opportunity bring together the original team. Whew!
AF.net - With a sorted history, several re-launches, and dozens of characters, what has it been like to balance history and continuity with accessibility for new readers?
MP: It’s the hardest part of the job. There are so many cool things to touch on but we need to make sure that we’re presenting something that new readers can appreciate. The goal isn’t to put out a book only for those of us that loved the original series but to show the world how great the characters are. We want EVERYONE to fall in love with them.
AF.net - Do you feel that several "failed" attempts to re-launch Alpha Flight are a mark against the future viability of the title?
MP: I don’t want to call any of them failedJ They all served the purpose of giving life to the property and good stuff came out of them. From a commercial standpoint, any time something doesn’t set the charts on fire it can hurt perception on a publishing and retailer level…and with potential readers. But I’m optimistic about this version. I believe it will do better than most people expect.
AF.net - So far we've seen most of the original Alpha Flight cast. One glaring omission is of course Puck. We've seen the alternate cover for #2 with him, but will we see him back on the ranks of Alpha Flight?
MP: Yes, he’s back and it’s a wonderful thing. But his trip to hell has had an effect on him. He’s a little off as you’ll see. But damn, it’s a treat seeing Dale draw him. The little guy’s never looked better.
AF.net - Can fans hope to see more "blasts from the past" in the book?
MP: Yeah, there are things in store that will tickle the nostalgia bone but we don’t want people to think they need to have read everything in order to enjoy the book. Greg and Fred know how to capitalize on what makes these characters distinctive and unique. And they are very good atcarefully crafting dynamics that are informative. There are nods to the past but you get the characters right away. You understand their relationships and personalities so this is a good series to recommend to your friends who may have never experienced the “joy of Flight”.
AF.net - Speaking of the past. The Alpha Flight Classics Vol.2 was solicited and then shelved. Should this book prove successful, are there any plans you are aware of to reprint more classic Alpha flight material?
MP: Let’s hope so. That Vol. 1 was a great trade (major props to our collections dept.).
AF.net - Fans have a dream to see one last Byrne cover. Any chance of reaching out to him for a variant? (again, a fan dream )
MP: Oh, his covers were great. I have the same kind of dreams as you, Ben.
AF.net - The creative team seems to be very committed to this title. How have you found working with Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Dale Eaglesham?
MP: I’ve worked with Fred and Greg on a lot of stuff and they are ALWAYS committed to telling the best stories but they are very passionate about this as is Dale. And Dale’s wife, Louise, is another boon to the book. Her enthusiasm helps keep all of us going when we’re perhaps worn down a little from the demanding schedules. There are a lot of creators I love to work with but this team is really perfect on many levels.
AF.net - What can you tell me about how this creative team was assembled?
MP: Fred and I had talked about ALPHA FLIGHT here and there over the years. When we worked together on the All Ages books there were a few stories he did that co-stared our favorite Canadian super heroes (MARVEL ADVENTURES IRON MAN # 11 and WOLVERINE: FIRST CLASS # 5). Those stories showed how effortlessly Fred could write those characters and his genuine love for them. So that was kind of the first piece.
Over on HERCULES, the acclaimed series that Fred co-writes with Greg, Snowbird was brought in for the SACRED INVASION arc. That kind of tantalized me more but the time just wasn’t right.
Then we cut to CHAOS WAR (which I have to say is one of the best smaller “big” Marvel stories out there). We were fortunate enough to have Jim McCann and Reilly Brown lend their talents on a one-shot that reunited the original team during the event.
And thus began musings of a new series. Soon all the elements of the current approach began to fall into place.
Somewhere along the way, we found out that Dale was a big ALPHA FLIGHT fan. He was working with me and Greg on INCREDIBLE HULKS. He really dug Greg’s scripting so things fell together nicely there.
AF.net - With past publications of Alpha Flight, Fans have felt that Marvel has not beet fully in support of the book. This time around that seems to be quite the opposite. What can you tell me about Marvel's willingness to support and publicize this volume?
MP: Sales and Marketing always do their best to support everything that we produce so I don’t know if I can agree that they haven’t supported the property in the past. But I do think they saw the potential in this as we kept them in the loop every step of production and made sure they had the tools they needed to properly promote the series. Jake Thomas (my trusty assistant on the book) and I have worked very hard to have as much art and story as possible available for press releases and interviews.
AF.net - How does this Alpha Flight publication differ from those that have failed in the past?
MP: We’ve got the original team and God help them because Fred and Greg are going to put them through the ringer more than anyone else since Byrne!
That’s one of thethings that Fred, Greg and I would talk about all the time, how it seemed like these guys were just never gonna catch a break. It was one struggle after another. That’s the magic I think this version has going for it. You see all these characters as very human. You relate to them, sympathize with them and you like them. Then you see these horrible things happen that tug on your heart strings and that’s when you know you’re reading something special.
AF.net - With the various incarnations and volumes of Alpha Flight over the years, many fans have given up, or lost interest. Why should they now come back to Alpha Flight?
MP: I don’t mind bragging a bit and saying that besides this a well-written project with fantastic and appealing art, we’ve also got amazing color art by Sonia Oback. Inker Andrew Hennessy and calligrapher Simon Bowland are giving this their all as well. Everyone’s doing top notch work here. Those covers by Phil Jimenez are killer. So you’re getting a quality product as far as craftsmanship goes.
On a dramatic level, a lot of the ingredients that not only made the original series so interesting but also early ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT X-MEN compelling and successful are present.
AF.net - Some mention has been made to the possibility of this series continuing beyond the initial 8.1 issues slated to be printed. Do you see this being a realistic hope for fans? How do you judge the chances of this happening?
MP: There’s a good chance that can happen. I know everyone involved would love to go beyond what’s planned. Some of the conversations I’ve had with Fred and Greg have me tingling with delight so if there’s great demand there will be supply!
AF.net - Alpha Flight fans as a whole tend to be ridiculously loyal. What has been you impression of the fan community?
MP: It says a lot about the resonance and draw of the characters and all the creators who’ve contributed to their mythos. And, of course, that the fans have excellent taste!
AF.net - What can fans do to show their support for the book?
MP: Get a hold of any lapsed ALPHA FLIGHT fans you know and tell them about the book and where to get it or how to have it reserved on a pull list. And we need to get the word out to new readers as well as to the people who love the characters.
And while it’s got awesome super-hero action, there are other great qualities that will appeal to fans of different genres. Romance. Mystery. Suspense. It’s good comics on every level!
AF.net - Is there anything else you would like to pass on to the fans (past, present and future)?
MP: Oh, there’s so much more I’d love to say but I just don’t want to spoil the surprises. But it’s important to say thanks to all the loyal and diligent ALPHA FLIGHT fans out there who have kept supporting the series in its many forms. I hope we do you right and make you all proud.